Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Just Plain Folks

Living for Dummies

Is it me, or has anyone else noticed how, in the past few years, this word, “folks” has dominated American political parlance with a vengeance?
If I had a nickel for every time....
(So far, in spite of the inundation of U.S. media, the term has not yet made significant inroads in Canada, where candidates, once elected, have no further need to ingratiate themselves with ‘the folks’ who put them there).

I scour my memory for earlier usage and can only come up with words like “folksong” or “folksy” (a description not always meant as a compliment).
OK, I admit I used to “folkdance” a little in my youth.
“Old Folks at Home”, of course, has been around for over a century, but is rarely sung anymore.

Did Woody Allen refer to Annie Hall’s family as her ‘folks’? Nope.
Did Gloria Steinem ever use that term?
As rarely as she would have said ‘gals’.
Folks used to be the people Woody Guthrie sang about, the ones who followed that long dusty road to nowhere.

So what the ‘folk’ is up?
These days, everyone from the President on down to politicians, talk show hosts and news broadcasters (often the same thing) cannot resist the urge to ‘folk-around’.
And I think I know why.

I think it’s all part of that ‘dumbing-down’ phenomenon we were warned about in the early 90’s. That’s when the natural order of the universe did a handstand and everything fell out of its pockets. Instead of being aspirational, people lowered their gazes to ground level and decided it was much easier to lie back and wallow around instead of trying to climb the old ladders of self-improvement, intellectual development and edification. Veneration of the capable and talented changed to adulation of the inept and amateurish so that now, instead of TV variety shows starring Judy Garland and Barbra Streisand warbling duets, we can be smug in the knowledge that Simon Callow’s American Idol losers are no better than any of us. If we could be bothered.

And in politics, it’s even worse. Bumbling, good ol’ boys and ditsy air-heady women take the lead while intelligent and articulate leaders are regarded as pompous and uppity. So they lower their level of discourse to accommodate the masses rather than 'rise them up' with their eloquence. Shame on them for selling out.

Minds can no longer digest anything bigger than a sound bite. People are eagerly taken in by a pretty face or glad hand. We celebrate celebrities who have accomplished nothing. Centuries of the rise of civilization, reduced to dust.

We are all just ‘folks’ now, a simple, unsophisticated nation of dummies.

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